I was hoping it would take a little longer to start making excuses for Jared Lee Loughner. It's been less than a week since the deranged gunman allegedly walked into a Tucson, Arizona store and shot 20 people, killing six. But already people are trying to give him an out.
Today's ridiculous explanation? The music made him do it! Claim the folks at WorldNet Daily (where, surprise, surprise, there's a big ad warning us to buy our survival kits NOW), "Radical leftist punk band inspired accused gunman." Excuse me while I yawn. Loudly. And in the face of this predictable and patently preposterous fallback. They couldn't come up with anything more creative?
In 12 years as a reporter, I think I've heard claims of this ilk trotted out at least once a month by people trying to make sense of a crime. Often it's the violence in rap songs -- I remember a particularly violent case in my neck of the woods, wherein a teen and her boyfriend killed her grandmother, that was blamed on the kids listening to the Snoop Dogg song "Murder Was the Case" -- but the "video games made them do it" claim ranks right up beside it.
For Loughner, it was allegedly punk band Anti-Flag that put him over the edge, thanks to lyrics like:
They use the flag to control us Brainwash us to be their patriotic slaves Programs our minds by controlling what we learn The only difference from the nazis is that Someone tried to stop them
It sounds damning, but let's give this some context. It's one band that has played the Warped tour to thousands of fans. And there's no evidence that those thousands of music lovers have gone out and shot up a building. It's a simplistic answer to a simplistic pointing of fingers, but that doesn't make it any less true.
Each time music, video games, and books are blamed for the evils of American children, it's a slap in the face to the millions of American kids who watch and listen to "subversive" or "violent" themed media and continue on the path to being productive members of society. Point of fact: I've listened to some of Anti-Flag's music. They're featured on a Punkorama CD my husband owns, and I have no impulses to kill or topple the republic.
Blaming musicians is evidence the thought police have sauntered out and are trying once again to take over America. We've been here before. My mother recalls being ordered by her parents in the '60s (J. Edgar Hoover days) not to order material that was considered "subversive," not because she was expected to actually turn violent, but because my grandfather feared her name would end up on some government list.
I've often wondered if it wasn't that memory that guided her hand in allowing both my brother and me free rein in the local library, where we were allowed to read anything that struck our fancy. My parents didn't believe in censoring so much as providing context for what we'd read or listened to. That's a parent's job, to help their kids make sense of media.
But as Katherine Paterson, author of oft-banned book Bridge to Terabithia, once reminded me in an interview, books are nothing without a reader. The same goes for music or video games. The person taking in the media is bringing to it their own biases, their own mental instabilities, and making decisions based on a mix of all three. An unhealthy mind is necessary to create unhealthy impulses. Jared Lee Loughner didn't kill because Anti-Flag told him to. He didn't kill because he liked the song "Bodies" by Drowning Pool either.
He is accused of killing because he is a sick, twisted individual. Case closed. Do you fear your kids' music will make them into killers?
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